Andy opened his mouth wide in a big yawn. “Ahhh! I never thought I would be on a plane in the middle of the night to Wyoming,” he yawned again and shook his head, as if to shake off the sleepiness. “Well,” Kevin replied, “might as well get some shut eye while we can. I have a feeling the next few days will be long and hard on us.” He reached up, turned off his light, reclined his seat and put a pillow behind his head. He was out in seconds as Andy kept yawning. It was not long before both men were snoring.
Kevin was right about the next few days being hard for them. The address Kyra had listed in the “roomers” profile was a house similar to Mrs. Collins’ room and board. Kyra had lived there for almost a year before she left and moved to California. The couple who owned the house identified Kyra from the pictures Kevin showed them, but had not ever seen Todd. They also did not know of any previous address for Kyra. They did not keep any records of their roomers. Kevin and Andy checked with the police, hospitals and newspaper archives with no luck.
They checked with neighbors of the room and board where Kyra had lived and got only one response from their inquiries. A woman knew Kyra and had taken some art classes with her at the college. She recognized Todd as Kyra’s boyfriend. He had taken some classes in livestock management. She said her and her boyfriend often double-dated with Kyra and Todd. She was pretty sure that Kyra moved to Califonia with Todd. She also said Kyra was not too enthusiastic about moving out there, but was so in love with Todd.
Kevin and Andy returned home after three days. The investigation continued slowly for three years then became a cold case, but not in Kevin’s heart. He still visited Jessica at least once a week and took her out for the day. But at least baby Jessica had a full name now and a birth certificate with date and place of birth in San Francisco, California. She was given the name Jessica Kyra Devereaux. She was nine years old now and still at the orphange when Kevin received a call from the past.
Call From the Past ~
“Kevin Berkley,” he answered. “Oh, thank goodness I found you!” a woman replied. She gave her name, said she was from Wyoming and he had interviewed her about Kyra Devereaux about nine years ago. “Yes, I remember. How can I help you?”
“Well, I think I can help you, Detective Berkley.” She explained that her and her husband had been searching in newpaper archives about the old Victorian house they just bought and came across the old article on Kyra. That got them remembering and talking about Kyra and Todd. “My husband, he was my boyfriend back then, and I saw Kyra and Todd often. He said he remembered Todd telling him a few times about his father’s cattle ranch in Texas. I don’t recall telling you about that at the time and thought I should give you a call and find out if you need that information.” She said that was all the information they had and apologized for not remembering to tell him before. Kevin wrote down some notes and thanked her for calling. “Anything else the two of you can remember, please call me.”
Kevin made a note on his calendar to check on all cattle ranches in Texas that might have the name of Gunther. Then he left for the day to go take Jessica out to her favorite cafe for dinner.
When Kevin and Jessica walked down the steps to his parked car Jessica said, “There’s that cowboy again.” Kevin asked where and she pointed across the street to the big house where Jessica’s parents once lived. “Don’t point, Jessica. It is not polite, Sweetie.” She apologized and got in the back seat, watching the cowboy as she fastened her seat belt. As Kevin walked around to get in the car he glanced over at “the cowboy” who reached up with his left hand and tipped his hat down, then turned and went into the house. Kevin had noticed a large tattoo on the man’s hand and his heart jumped.
He got in the car and called Andy on the police phone. “Andy, Kevin here. Take a look at the tattoo on left hand, cowboy, house across the street from orphanage. Can’t say more now, taking Jessica out. Will meet you at the house in about two hours. Retain him. Got it?” Andy was a bit confused, but in a few seconds it dawned on him. Jessica’s parents had the rose and heart tattoo on their left hands.
The Tattoo ~
Two hours later Kevin arrived at the house where Andy was interviewing Todd Gunther. They both stood up when Kevin entered the room. Todd shook Kevin’s hand and asked, “Am I under arrest for anything?” He seemed quite nervous. “No, you are not, Todd. But we have a legal right to question you in a cold case. You might just be able to help us a great deal.”
Andy briefed Kevin on what Todd had told him so far. Todd kept drying his eyes with a large hankerchief. “I didn’t know,” he said. “I did not know Kyra had died and did not know she had a baby. That little girl you took out earlier, Detective Berkeley, is that my daughter?” Tears were pouring down Todd’s cheek now. “We believe she might be, Todd,” Kevin said. “You want to talk about Kyra and your relationship with her?”
“I want to tell you both at once what happened. I loved Kyra dearly, but she was very stubborn. She was kind of a hippie type girl and never wanted to leave San Francisco. She had gotten into a group of friends just like herself and said she was happy here and would never go live on a ranch with a bunch of cows! I had to go back to Texas to help my Dad with the ranch. I asked Kyra to marry me and go with me. She refused. I had no choice but to leave her, thinking she would change her mind. I wrote several letters to her and they were all returned to me. After several months I tried to forget her.” Kevin picked up a mug of coffee and took a big swallow, trying to calm down. “That little girl looks just like Kyra. I believe she is my daughter,” he bent down and put his face in both hands and sobbed.
Todd continued, “I got to thinking about Kyra a few weeks ago and decided to come back here to find her. Mrs. Collins told me what had happened and gave me your number,” he looked at Kevin. “I have been so depressed I just couldn’t call you yet. I had planned to. I have only been here a few days, but I was going to call you.” Kevin said, “Well, I am sure you would have soon if I had not seen a tattoo on your hand earlier today.” Todd looked at his tattoo for several seconds, remembering so much. “Detectives, I know that is my little girl. Kyra and I were very close. She was faithful to me. I know that is my little girl.”
“Todd, I am sure she is,” Kevin said. “We can have some tests taken to make absolutely sure. Until we have confimation you are the father you are not to approach the girl and you will have to stay here till everything is settled.” Kevin agreed.
Jessica and Todd ~
Kevin had a long talk with Jessica and told her they found her father. Jessica took the news quite well at first then started crying. “Why did he never come for me? Why, Kevin?” She climbed on his lap and hugged him tightly as she sobbed. He rocked her till she calmed down, he was crying, too, knowing that his little Jessica would be leaving him soon. Kevin explained the whole story to Jessica as she listened carefully. She had known her mother died, but always wondered where her father was.
Jessica asked to see her father. Kevin said he would be right back and she waited patiently for him. Jessica was curled up in the large armchair almost asleep when Kevin came back. “Jessica, Jessica dear,” Jessica sat up and looked at Kevin kneeling in front of her. “Jessica, this is your father, Todd Gunther.” He stood up as Todd came in the room. “My cowboy!” Jessica whispered, got up and ran to Todd with both arms up. He picked her up and they both cried as Kevin walked over to look out a window, trying not to sob his heart out.
Six months later Kevin drove up to the ranch house in Texas and got out of the car. Jessica came running out the front door yelling, “He’s here, Daddy! Uncle Kevin, Uncle Kevin!”
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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